Since moving to Oakland, I met some of my more distant relatives that live out here. I’ve become really good friends with my cousin Kiera and her husband Bill and their two girls, Brenna and Olivia. Meeting them has been the best bit of luck, and knowing them is the best part of living here.
One of the things Kiera and I have in common is a love for good, fresh food… most times we hang out or talk on the phone, we end up having a conversation about what we are going to cook or bake, and give each other ideas. That’s actually where this recipe came from – I was planning on doing a pumpkin and barley scone but after talking to Kiera, who had pounds of over-ripe Fuyu persimmons and was talking about all the delicious things she was thinking of making with them, I started craving persimmon-everything.
Persimmons are one of my favorite fruits. There are actually quite a few varieties, including a Mexican variety that turns black when ripe and a spicy “cinnamon” persimmon called Maru – like the goofy fat cat on YouTube. I have had only two kinds: the Fuyu, which is sweet and firm when ripe (like my sister-in-law Jeeana says, ”Fuyu: not just shorthand for telling someone off”) and the Hachiya. The Hachiya is the one generally used for baking because of its intense, sweet flavor. They are also really good frozen and then left to thaw slightly. They are ripe when completely soft and almost bursting – like a balloon, as one of the farmers at the Lake Merritt farmer’s market put it.
There’s a good reason to wait for a Hachiya to fully ripen before eating it: it has a very astringent quality – that is, it gives you a dry feeling in your mouth if you eat it before the tannins that cause the astringency have broken down. Fuyus have these tannins, too, but they break down faster during ripening. In the picture above, the Fuyu is the squat, tomato-shaped persimmon on the plate and cut up, and the Hachiya is just to the right of the teapot, and is larger and more heart-shaped.
But even if you do end up using somewhat astringent persimmons for this recipe, don’t worry – the baking process will break down the tannins even further and you won’t have that weird sandpapery feeling on your tongue.
For these scones, hachiyas are used to make a quick compote with nutmeg and lemon zest. This mixture is sandwiched between two rounds of barley flour-based scone dough and then caramelizes on the edges a bit while in the oven. The barley flour has an incredible sweet, nutty flavor that pairs wonderfully with the persimmons – or any type of fruit; if you don’t want to make the persimmon compote, use a strawberry or apricot jam (or whatever your favorite is). The scone itself is only lightly sweetened (as good scones should be), but the sweetness of the hachiya compote will keep your sweet tooth at bay.
To make a tender, flaky scone, avoid over-handling the dough or adding extra flour, and most importantly, keep the butter cool to stop it from melting before baking. It’s very like the process of making pie crust: cut the butter into the flour and keep it cold until you are ready to add the persimmon compote and bake. Don’t worry if these are a little messy; they are going to look delicious, but probably not neat.
- 1 cup persimmon pulp from 1 1/2 large or 2 medium Hachiyas
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup nondairy milk
- 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
- 3 tablespoons warm water
- 1 cup and 2 tablespoons barley flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
- 8 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon vegan baking butter (like Earth Balance Buttery Sticks), separated
- 1 tablespoon coarse-grained sugar, for sprinkling (opt.)
- Mix together persimmon pulp, sugar, lemon zest and juice and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer vigorously until thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter a baking sheet and set aside.
- Mix the milk with the lemon juice and set aside to curdle. Mix the flaxseed meal with the warm water and set aside to thicken (both should take about 10 minutes).
- Cut 8 tablespoons of the butter into small chunks on a plate and put in the freezer.
- Sift together both flours with the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Take the butter from the freezer and cut in until most pieces are the size of small peas. Put this mixture in the fridge or freezer until the oven is fully preheated.
- Melt the remaining 1 T butter on the stove and set aside. Mix together the curdled milk and the flax seed until well-combined. Mix into the dry ingredients until just combined (do not overmix).
- Dump the dough onto a lightly-floured table and separate in two equal pieces. Using your hands to gather the dough and shape into two discs, about 7 inches across and 3/4 inch thick. Slide one of the discs onto the well-buttered baking sheet.
- Scoop 1/2 cup of cooled persimmon compote onto the top of this disc and distribute evenly. Using a spatula and your hands, carefully pick up the other disc and lay on top of the compote, pressing down gently. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 equal triangles. Use your hands to gently separate the triangles and arrange them a few inches apart on the baking sheet.
- Brush with the melted butter and sprinkle on the sugar.
- Bake for 22-27 minutes, rotating halfway through. They are done when golden brown. Remove from the oven and let rest for a minute, then use a spatula to transfer them to a cooling rack.
- These are best eaten warm from the oven.
- You may have extra compote - cut a scone in half and spread with butter and compote. Or just eat on toast or swirled in oatmeal.